Information structure and syntax in Kwa and beyond

Based on the analysis of Gungbe and other Gbe languages, this class will explore an approach to information structure and syntax that assumes that certain discourse-related functions (e.g., topic, focus, interrogative) are present in the numeration in the form of discourse-related lexical items which drive the derivation. It will be demonstrated that features of information structure (e.g., topic, focus, interrogative) are lexical properties responsible for various syntactic operations (e.g., Probe-Goal relations, Merge). In many languages, so-called discourse-markers encode interrogative force, topic, or focus, and show very specific syntactic behavior as to Movement, Ellipsis (e.g., Merchant 2004), Predicate doubling (Aboh & Dyakonova 2009), and (Generalized) Pied-Piping (Aboh 2004). Under the assumption that such operations are not context-dependent but must take place formally in the presence of certain syntactic features (e.g., definiteness, topic, interrogative, focus), it is reasonable to say that these features are properties of functional heads that project in syntax and probe for the goal (i.e., a relevant syntactic category bearing the matching feature), see Rizzi (1997). We will then discuss to what extent such discourse-related features are comparable to other optional formal features (e.g., Case, phi-features) that are added arbitrarily when forming the numeration (Aboh 2010).